David Wagner has praised Jurgen Klopp for his decision to step down as Liverpool manager, revealing that he is happy for his good friend following an exhausting near-quarter century in management.
Fittingly, it will be the German’s best friend in football, Wagner, in the opposite dugout on Sunday with the duo’s relationship stretching back over 30 years.
Wagner and Klopp first met when both were playing for Mainz in 2. Bundesliga, going on to enjoy a strong relationship which eventually saw Wagner act as Klopp’s best man for his wedding in 2005.
The former USA international was also part of Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund coaching staff from 2011 to 2015 before being heavily tipped for a return to his backroom when Klopp joined Liverpool.
He would instead end up managing Huddersfield Town, leading the Terriers to the top flight in 2017.
Wagner has been in charge of Norwich since January 2023, with the side on the fringes of the Championship playoff positions ahead of the trip to Anfield on Sunday for what is sure to be an emotional reunion.
"I wasn't surprised, but when he told me, I was happy for him. I know how hard and difficult this decision was and is,” said Wagner of Klopp's shock announcement.
"It shows a lot of personality, character and bravery to make this decision, but I think only he knows what is best for him.
“We both know how exhausting and challenging this business can be, nobody has more understanding of this decision than I do.
"If he knows that it is the best for him, then I'm happy for him. He will have a great time ahead of him for sure."
Klopp’s managerial career began in 2001 at Mainz before a fruitful spell at Dortmund where he claimed two Bundesliga titles.
He announced his intention to quit the German club in April 2015 and was lured by the attraction of Anfield in October of that year.
"Nobody should underestimate that he has been in this job for 22 or 23 years with only three months in between Dortmund and Liverpool where he had a very short break," said Wagner.
“There were not a lot of football clubs where he was open to shortening his break, but Liverpool was one of them. In every business, when you work for 25 years, there is a moment when you feel it, even if you enjoy it.
"At the highest level, it is unbelievable, not just the success but the consistency. The best thing for me, and only the people who know him well and very closely can judge this, is that he is still the same person he was 35 years ago. That is extraordinary.
"This is one of the occasions where you like to be involved if you are a football player. It is a difficult task with the news today, but to be the first one that he faces on his goodbye tour makes it even bigger."